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Shaq given primer on ‘Gino’ tradition

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By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / November 18, 2010

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Eleven games into the season, Shaquille O’Neal went through the initiation process. There was 4:47 left, Celtics coach Doc Rivers had pulled his starters, and Kevin Garnett had O’Neal look at the video board as the “Gino’’ footage rolled, signaling that the Celtics’ 114-83 win over the Wizards was officially a blowout.

“I took him through clip-by-clip,’’ Garnett said.

The Celtics improved their home record to 5-0, but last night was their first double-digit win at the Garden. A year ago, their struggles in their own gym, where they lost 17 games, cost them home-court advantage for the final three rounds of the playoffs.

“We have a lot of pride in protecting our home,’’ said Paul Pierce. “We know we didn’t play well at home last year as we did in previous years, so that’s something that we want to get back to. We don’t want to give anybody any confidence when they come in here. We want to make this building a special place, and you can see it coming.’’

Balancing point Coming into the season, Rivers said that monitoring Rajon Rondo’s minutes was a priority. After Rondo averaged 41.1 minutes the first 10 games, it’s more like a riddle.

“Here’s my question I always ask when people ask me that,’’ Rivers said. “Do we want Rondo to play less?’’

Rondo was the catalyst of the Celtics’ 8-2 start. But he’s coming off a season in which he played a career-high 2,963 minutes in the regular season and 975 in the playoffs.

“The 35- to 36-minute mark is a really good measure for Rondo, if we can keep him there all year,’’ Rivers said. “There’ll be nights when he’ll play more. Hopefully, there will be nights when he plays less. But that’s a good point for him.’’

Ray Allen also was hovering near the 40-minute mark (39.7). Having three of their first 10 games go into overtime didn’t help matters for the Celtics. And Delonte West’s return should help.

Work in progress Though the Celtics have found ways to win, Rivers hasn’t lost sight of the things that still need polishing. On their recent 3-1 road trip, they didn’t necessarily display shutdown defense. They gave up 96.3 points a night against the Thunder, Mavericks, Heat, and Grizzlies, and opponents shot a combined 49 percent. The Heat and Grizzlies both hung 100 on the Celtics.

Still, they’ve found ways to win.

“I don’t think we’ve become that yet, where we can say we’ve got to get a stop right here,’’ Rivers said. “We haven’t done that yet. We’ve had great defensive stretches and then I think we let up. Clearly, when we get a lead, we kind of let up defensively.’’

Rebounding and pick-and-roll defense are areas where he feels his team can sharpen.

“It’s just early in the season,’’ Rivers said. “You’re always happy with your record. Your record is what you are.

“But that doesn’t mean that’s what you want to be right now. You know you have to be something else, if you want to win something else. Our guys really understand that.’’

Daniels in action The Celtics practiced without Marquis Daniels the past two days because of family issues, but he played last night. “You would love them to practice together, but listen, sometimes life gets involved and there’s nothing you can do about it,’’ Rivers said. “We just kind of roll with it.’’ . . . In the process of psyching out young Wizards forward Andray Blatche last March, Kevin Garnett took the “in your face’’ approach to the extreme. Blatche complained that he could “feel his lips touching my cheek.’’ In a game the following month, Blatche dropped 31 points on Garnett in a Wizards win. Before last night’s game, Rivers said he wouldn’t be surprised if Blatche is on Garnett’s hit list. “He sometimes manufactures things to get upset at so he can get upset at a player or a team,’’ Rivers said. “It’s a good quality, really. He’s competitive.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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